Undergoing plastic surgery requires a great deal of trust between you and your operating surgeon. Not only are you entrusting them with keeping you healthy and safe; you are also handing over the power to alter the appearance you present to the world, ensuring that it is in line with your vision.
In the media, you may have heard stories of medical practitioners acting unethically towards their patients—certainly an alarming prospect. If you or a loved one is considering plastic surgery, this subject will be even closer to your heart. How can you ensure that the surgeon you choose will act ethically?
We wanted to devote some time to this topic, as this is an area of patient education we feel strongly about. Whether or not you choose FORM Face + Body for your surgery, we always want to increase the number of success stories and patients who love both their results and their experience. This blog will give you tools to help achieve that.
Vetting a Plastic Surgeon
First things first—education and training. It’s irresponsible and potentially dangerous for an individual to perform surgeries that they have not received specialized training in and have not been cleared by the appropriate governing body to perform. The designation you should look for is ‘Board Certified Plastic Surgeon’. After completing their training to become a physician, plastic surgeons undertake an extensive residency program encompassing a minimum of five years of additional training. Next, they must pass their examinations to become a fellow of the RCPSC—Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. They are then able to display the designation FRCSC as proof of their surgical proficiency. In Canada, this is what it means for a physician to be a “board-certified surgeon”. You can search the RCPSC online directory to confirm a physician’s membership status.
Unfortunately, there are physicians in Canada who will offer surgery without having the necessary training or having ever completed a surgical residency. These individuals may refer to themselves as ‘cosmetic surgeons’—this is a self-proclaimed title and not an official designation.
Another resource you can use to vet your surgeon is the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the regulatory college for medical doctors in our province. This organization binds physicians to a professional code of conduct and set of policies. Searching by surname on the CPSO website will bring up the surgeon’s registration status, specialization, and hospital privileges (the facilities where they are authorized to perform surgery).
Importantly, this search will also return documentation of any incidents that indicate professional misconduct, including:
- Whether the surgeon’s CPSO registration status is restricted, suspended or revoked.
- Any criminal charges or guilty findings, findings of malpractice or negligence; allegations or findings of professional misconduct, incompetence or incapacity.
- Any requirements or restrictions imposed upon the doctor related to prior misconduct.
Under the guidelines of the CPSO, your surgeon must ensure that you have been directly informed of any fee that will be charged prior to providing an uninsured (elective) surgery. They must also be available to explain or answer questions about these fees at the patient’s request.
The CPSO advises physicians to support patient education by posting a general notice in their office listing fees for common procedures. At FORM, we take this transparency a step further by providing approximate price ranges for the surgeries we perform on the Pricing page of our website, as well as information on financing a procedure.
Your physician is required to inform you of their cancellation policy and fees in advance—make sure you have been provided with this information and that you understand the terms you are agreeing to. These fees are often put in place to cover the logistic complications of last-minute cancellations. Setting a surgery date involves securing operating room time, anesthetists, and nurses, all of which involve costs that cannot be recovered when a surgery is cancelled without the required notice. At FORM, a $1,000+HST non-refundable deposit is required to secure a surgery date. Payment in full is also required two weeks prior to your surgery date. If you cancel or reschedule less than two weeks in advance of surgery, the deposit and 25% of the procedure fee is non-refundable. If you cancel or reschedule within one week of your surgery date, the deposit and 50% of the procedure fee is non-refundable.
Patient Selection and Care
Aside from receiving the proper training and abiding by regulations, we believe that being an ethical plastic surgeon also encompasses the ability to connect with your patients on an individual level, to empathize with the concerns or motivations that have brought them into your office, and to balance their desires with a surgical plan that will bring them the best results with as little risk as possible. For example, the nature of some procedures means they should not be combined in the same surgery due to increased risk to the patient. For procedures like liposuction, there is a maximum volume of fat that can be safely removed at one time. When it comes to breast implants, there is a limit to the size of implant that a patient’s frame can support without causing complications in the future. An ethical plastic surgeon will also turn down patients who are simply not good candidates for surgery at present, due to factors such as existing medical conditions, smoking, or fluctuating weight. Even in the absence of these physical conditions, a patient may not be considered a good candidate for surgery if they do not have realistic expectations.
When you meet with your plastic surgeon for your consultation, do they explain all your options and the potential outcomes? Do you feel comfortable and heard? A surgeon may discuss additional procedures with you that could enhance or balance your results—for example, laser treatments to enhance skin quality in combination with a facelift, or liposuction to improve the contours of a tummy tuck or breast reduction. However, a surgeon should not be suggesting procedures that are unrelated to the areas of concern you are there to discuss. Before choosing to proceed with surgery, you should be made aware of all risks and provided with detailed pre- and post-operative instructions, as well as methods of contact for reaching out with any questions or concerns.
We hope this blog has given you some perspective on the question of ethics in plastic surgery, and tools to help you choose a reputable surgeon. We are constantly striving to serve our patients with the highest standard of care and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.